Clare Crofton has been happily married for several years; however now she is in a severe depression because of the recent loss of her baby. As well as deeply mourning the baby, she believes her future will be childless, as she is now in her late thirties.
At this difficult moment her husband takes on guardianship of an 18-year-old distant cousin Lucy Crofton. When he brings Lucy home Clare realises that underneath Lucy's sweet exterior is a rather sly and spiteful personality. But her husband and her friends congratulate her on gaining such a delightful, helpful companion. This is a suspenseful story told in the first person by Clare, in which we follow Lucy's machinations, including her efforts to break up one betrothal and bring about her own. Meanwhile Clare has worries about the two young people dearest to her heart, Bertie and Alice, whose incipient romance has not so far developed.
This is the second in a series of three novels (see Series link below), but it can be read by itself.
Biographical and other notes
The description of Clare's deep depression is reminiscent of Mrs Oliphant's own recent depression in 1858, after the loss of a 9-week-old baby boy.
British publishing information
First edition: Hurst and Blackett 1859 (1860 on title page)